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Drama

The Composition of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

The works of Stoppard are saturated with a huge number of allusions, quotations and citations both in the original language (Shakespearean English, French, Latin, Ancient Greek), and in translation. This intertextual material can lead the reader to decipher the author’s idea, expanding the context of the work. As noted by the British researchers of Stoppard’s work, in plays the playwright is inclined to raise questions without giving his own clear and definitive answers. Hence the duality of the reading of each Stoppard product that we have repeatedly stated.

The basis of the composition ‘Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern’ is composed of verbal and musical themes that are realized in the text of the play with the help of a number of repetitive motifs (leitmotifs), the most important are themes of fate and fate, eternity, insanity, randomness and free will. The leitmotif of expectation is manifested in the form of the Stoppard variation of ‘Godot’s expectation’ and at the level of the main characters – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – the intertextual connection with Shakespeare’s tragedy is viewed. A particular manifestation of the hero’s attribution to the Shakespearean text is their dependence on Prince Hamlet. At the same time, the attitude of Rosa and Gil to Hamlet is of the same nature as Bekett’s vagabonds to Godot. While Hamlet is alive, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are still on stage; until Godot appeared, Vladimir and Estragon will not leave the agreed place. The motive for spying in the play of Stoppard in many respects echoes the Beckett motive of inaction, since for Rosa and Gil, not dedicated to the Sheksperian text, the fulfillment of the mission entrusted to them is absolutely impossible.

The heroes of the play of Stoppard are equally doomed not only to death, but also to immortality, because they are fixed in the space and time of the classical work – ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare. The conceptual core of T. Stoppard’s work – the theme of life-death-immortality – is declared by the playwright already in the title of his first play.

The first intertext model that we can single out is the use of a quote from another work as a title. Intertextual reference to the theme of life-death-immortality is already in the title of the play, which unites different cultural epochs. The title informs about the paradoxical author’s attitude, which consists in deducing the deceased as acting persons.

In the play, this intertextual layer is shown in a comic key. Gil, puzzled by the fact that he loses all the time, tries to apply the methods known to him, – the theory of probability, the laws of averages. However, Gil, Shakespeare’s hero, dressed in the costume of the Elizabethan era, in principle, can not be familiar with these laws. Such an anachronism performs two functions in the play. First, it reflects the typical for postmodernism arbitrary perception of time. Secondly, the fact that Gil is familiar with at least the names of these mathematical discoveries, demonstrates the timelessness of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, due to their belonging to Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy.

Practically the whole play of Stoppard is presented in the form of an intertextual polylogue. Even before the verbal parties of heroes begin to sound, the ‘foreign’ artistic languages-Shakespeare’s (through the title) and Beckett’s (by opening the action of the author’s remark) are introduced into the space of the Stoppard play. In a number of cases, all three votes occupy equal positions, there are episodes in which one of the artistic languages dominates. But, anyway, the conceptual originality of ‘Rosenkrantz…’ is due, first of all, to the combination in the play of three art systems – classical (Shakespearian), absurdist (Beckett) and postmodern (actually Stoppard).

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